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Barbet Dog Breed: The Rare Water Dog

Barbet Dog Breed: The Rare Water Dog

The Barbet is not a newcomer; the first written reference to the breed is from 1387, while it is possible that the breed dates back to the seventh century. For generations, the Barbet has served as a water retriever for both royalty and commoners, and his thick, waterproof coat has earned him a reputation for braving even the coldest waters. King Henry IV was a huge fan of Barbet, and tradition has it that the king’s mistress was once chastised for bringing one to church.

This woolly sporting dog breed is playful and intelligent. The Barbet was designed to retrieve waterfowl for hunters, and they have the webbed feet to prove it, but they’re also a talented agility competitor in their homeland of France.

Barbets thrive in the hands of knowledgeable pet owners. They are energetic and like participating in dog activities such as agility events. If you can meet the breed’s requirements, you’ll have a loving family member who gets along with children and other canines.

Aside from his retrieving abilities, the Barbet is admired for his flexibility and upbeat, bright personality. He is one of the best agility breeds in his homeland, and he also enjoys chasing balls and flying discs. The Barbet is a rare breed, with just 30 to 40 living in the United States and about 600 globally, but fans hope that more will come to share their passion for this fascinating canine.

History of the Barbet dog breed

The barbet is a bird and waterfowl hunting dog that originated in France. He is related to the poodle and the briard. Because of his webbed paws, the barbet earned the nickname “mud dog” for chasing birds into muck and water.

The barbet’s true name, on the other hand, is derived from the French word “barbe,” which meaning “beard.” This name was given to them in the 16th century by a cynologist called Fouilloux.

Barbecues have a long and varied history throughout Europe. The oldest written mention of the breed was published in 1387, however some believe barbets date back to the eighth century. Barbets were also reported to be King Henry IV’s companions, and his mistress was once fined for bringing a barbet into church.

Their population started to decline after the two world wars. People were more interested in poodles as shows and competitions started rising in popularity. His shaggy coat lost it’s popularity, and not even his high intelligence or ability to catch water game easily helped him back then.

Barbets have been devoted hunting dogs—and companions—for ages, but they’re now a rather rare species. Despite their limited global population, the barbet is considered one of the best agility dogs in French dog competitions.

The Barbet is a relatively recent breed that has been officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. The AKC recognized the breed as a part of the “Sporting Group” in 2020.

Appearance and breed traits 

Barbets are large dogs with a compact physique. Their ears sit low and hang down. They have a shaggy coat that is available in different coat colors. The growing popularity of these dogs proves how adorable and desired their unique look is. 

The dog has a distinctive beard under his chin and a mustache over his snout. Hence his name “Barbet.” Like we have already explained, his name means “bearded” translated from the French language..

Barbets are an uncommon breed with a dense curly coat. Barbets come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, black and white, and brown and white. On black or brown-coated dogs, white chest patches and white paws or legs are common. With a long, woolly, and curly coat, the barbet is a classic water dog.

Grey and white are extremely uncommon, and mixing colors (other than white) are considered a flaw. Solid black, solid brown, or both hues with white markings are the most prevalent colors. In 2007, there were 176 Barbet births globally. All of the babies were full black or brown, with white patterns on the chest, chin, and legs.

Barbet males grow to be approximately 21 to 25 inches tall and weigh between 40 and 60 lbs, while females grow to be about 20 to 23 inches tall and weigh between 30 and 50 lbs.

Their coats grow long and must be maintained on a regular basis, or the barbet’s coat may mat and little tufts of hair will fall out.

Temperament of the Barbet

The barbet is regarded as having a cheerful, joyful, obedient, and clever personality. They are eager to pick up new information and require lifelong obedience training. They’re fantastic with kids, families, and the elderly. Barbets have strong bonds with their families and desire to spend as much time as possible with them. They require daily exercise to keep the dog in a good mental and physical state.

The original purpose of this breed was to retrieve ducks from lakes, streams, and swamps. And it accomplished that goal admirably! One of its favorite activities is still leaping into murky water.

A Barbet will bring a smart canine with a pleasant demeanor and a desire to explore new places to a family. Plus, whether there’s a swimming pool, lake, or even a creek on the property, this four-legged, excellent swimmer will keep the whole family entertained. One of this canine’s most admired characteristics is its mischievous temperament.

If you make the most of this intelligent fuzzy head, you will find a versatile companion in it. Barbets are all-round friendly, balanced dogs. They are sociable and integrate well into the family.

The breed is always ready for something new and can hardly be disturbed. The dog is always loyal to caregivers, but he is usually a little distant to strangers.

Caring for a Barbet

Barbet dogs require moderate care. They don’t shed much, but their coat needs to be brushed daily and trimmed on a regular basis. Because these are high-energy puppies, you’ll have to devote a lot of time to exercising this working dog. They’re not difficult to train, though, so you’ll have plenty of time to teach your pup that new trick you saw.


The Barbet has a naturally curly and fluffy coat. It’s simple to keep up with. However, you should brush it properly at least once a week. This is how matting is avoided.

Every day, look for keepsakes in the form of small branches or leaves in your long-haired barbet. These cling to their fluffy fur pretty easily. And don’t forget to examine his ears.

Ear infections are common in barbets. Keep his ears as hair-free as possible to avoid this. It is important to visit your veterinarian if you notice the first signs of irritation.

This dog’s coat grows quickly. Taking it to the groomer three or four times a year keeps its hair manageable and simplifies weekly grooming care.

Because their nails grow quickly, you’ll need to clip them every two to four weeks or whenever you hear them tapping on the floor. You should also examine your Barbet’s ears once a week to prevent wax or other debris from building up, which can lead to ear infections.

To prevent plaque and tartar buildup, veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth anywhere from three times a week to everyday. Periodontal disease can result in tooth loss as well as more significant complications such as heart disease. In addition to brushing your dog’s teeth at home, take him to the vet for expert dental cleanings once a year.

Exercising the Barbet

Barbets are high-energy dogs who require a lot of exercise, so set out one to two hours throughout the day for them. While walks and long excursions are beneficial, these canines have webbed paws that allow them to swim. Barbets love to paddle around in the water, so if your activities include romps in lakes or rivers, you’ll make their day (or even your own backyard pool).

If you and your Barbet have a competitive side, dog sports could be a fun way for you and your Barbet to bond. Consider activities like agility, rally, dock diving (which appeals to their natural affinity for water) or lure coursing, in which they race around a track pursuing a mechanical bait.

Bring the fun indoors with games like hide-and-seek or fetch when the weather isn’t cooperating (if your home has enough room or a long hallway). Puzzle toys are nice to have around the house since they provide brain stimulation. Bored Barbets will come up with less-than-fun methods to pass the time, such as biting your shoes.

Training a Barbet

Barbets are a sensitive and even-tempered breed that responds best to positive reinforcement training (i.e., rewarding your dog’s excellent behavior with goodies and praise). They are intelligent and ready to please, making training your Barbet both enjoyable and, dare we say, simple.

Basic instructions like sit, remain, and come, as well as how to walk nicely on a leash, should all be included in obedience training. But because Barbets enjoy a challenge, when they’ve mastered the basics, teach them amusing tricks like shaking, rolling over, and playing dead.

While your Barbet puppy is young, it’s crucial to get them used to meeting new people, other dogs, and circumstances (aka socialization); this helps to bring out their naturally loving disposition. Allow them to go on walks and meet and sniff the people and dogs they encounter. Enrolling at puppy preschool allows them to learn how to play well with other puppies while also meeting other puppy parents in one convenient location.


Give your barbet a diet that is suitable for its kind. This dog requires a substantial amount of meat in his bowl. Meat should always come first, whether they eat wet or dry meals. It’s advisable to start with the breeder’s well-known food for your puppy.

This is also true if you want to switch his food later. After the dog has settled in, gradually introduce more of the unfamiliar food into the familiar. This is how hypersensitivity reactions are avoided. This strategy has been proven even with mature four-legged buddies.

Treats should be based as rewards. Dried meat snacks and dental care treats are examples of this. Additional bites should be prepared in the same way as the main course: Sugar and cereals should be avoided. Both of these ingredients have no place in high-quality dog food.

From time to time, reward your dog with dog chewing bones or dry chews. These provide your dog a lot of chewing enjoyment. It is critical to let huge four-legged friends, such as a barbet, to relax after eating. This is how you can avoid bloat.

Don’t overfeed your dog as they are prone to obesity. They gain weight pretty easily. Weigh the dog every couple weeks if you’re not sure. This enables you to combat obesity at a young age.

This normally works even if he isn’t on a diet. The importance of exercise also can’t be overstated. Also, keep in mind that your dog must have access to fresh drinking water at all times.

Barbet health

Because there are so few barbets in the world, little is known about their long-term health problems. Ear infections, hip dysplasia, hernias, undescended testicles, undershot/overshot bites, entropia, and epilepsy are some of the difficulties that have manifested.

Ear infections are the most common problem in most water dog breeds. Proper ear care can help to reduce ear issues. If the dog shows signs of an ear infection, he or she should see a veterinarian.

The Barbet has few health problems compared to other breeds. However, some things to remember include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). The cells in a dog’s eyes degrade as a result of this ailment, and the dog eventually loses sight. This illness is extremely difficult for owners to discover in their dogs. Dogs with this ailment, on the other hand, may be wary of walking in the dark.

Most common health problems

Ear infections

Otitis is the medical term for an ear infection. There are three main types of ear infections based on where the infection starts within the ear.

The most common and typically harmless form of infection is otitis externa. The infection exclusively affects the cells on the outside of the ear canal.
Otitis medium develops when an infection spreads from the canal’s exterior to the middle region.
Otitis interna — the infection can spread and affect the entire ear canal in severe situations.
External otitis is a relatively harmless condition, but if left untreated, it can progress to otitis media or internal.

Otitis media and interna are major health problems that can lead to hearing, balance problems, and facial paralysis in the long run.

The eardrums of dogs with otitis media and interna may be intact or ruptured. The eardrum’s condition is an important prognostic factor.

Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint becomes unstable as a result of both developmental and environmental factors. Dogs are prone to this bone and joint disorder. The femur does not meet the pelvic bone appropriately, causing the bones to wear out prematurely.

Later in life, your dog may develop arthritis, which can be excruciatingly painful. This ailment shows itself as a peculiar walk, shaky posture, or limping, all of which are plainly seen in your beautiful pup. To preserve your dog’s quality of life, discuss care with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation, or the dislocation of the kneecap, is common in these dogs. The kneecap usually sits in front of the hind leg’s joint and is maintained in place by ligaments. It moves around in a groove when the dog walks, protecting the joint but allowing the dog to move freely.

This little bone can dislocate and slip out of the groove in certain dogs. So it’s causing it to “float” freely about the knee. If left untreated, this can lead to major complications. It’s possible that the bone will be forced up against another bone, causing damage. Ligaments are frequently injured when the kneecap moves around incorrectly.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy is an eye ailment that might have a negative impact on the quality of life of your dog. This usually happens later in life as a result of retinal degeneration. Retinal dysplasia is the name for the early-onset type, which is observed in puppies. This is when the retinal cells do not mature properly.

The dog becomes partially or completely blind in both cases. While the disease isn’t unpleasant, it can have a significant influence on your dog’s quality of life. Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s alternatives, as well as what to do if he becomes blind.


Allergies to pollen, mold, and dust cause people to sneeze. Instead of sneezing, allergies in dogs produce itching. Atopy is a name used to describe a common skin allergy in these puppies. The feet, tummy, skin wrinkles, and ears are the most commonly affected locations. Symptoms normally emerge between the ages of one and three, and they can get worse as time goes on. Licking the paws, stroking the face, and recurring ear infections are the most prevalent allergy symptoms. The good news is that these diseases can be treated in a number of different ways.


Unfortunately, dogs too, can develop epilepsy and seizures. Recurrent seizures with no known cause or abnormal brain damage characterize epilepsy. To put it another way, the brain appears normal on the outside but functions strangely on the inside. Twitching, shaking, tremors, convulsions, and/or spasms are all symptoms of a seizure.

Is this breed a good choice for me?

This smart companion wants an active household and family members with whom he can do a lot. Of course, he is not a dog for couch potatoes! So several hours a day of activity with your dog are a must. The friendly breed is well suited for families and can be a wonderful companion to children, provided that they have learned respectful treatment of animals. The Barbet can also make friends with cats – but he needs to grow up with them.

From time to time you will find some hair on your clothes and furniture. However, you can solve these by brushing them regularly so that they do not spread within your four walls. But the Barbet generally speaking does shed little. This does not mean that they are hypoallergenic. No dog is completely hypoallergenic, and neither is this one. Since some allergy sufferers do not respond to Barbets, you can try your luck out by spending some time with one of these cutie pies. If you don’t get any allergic reactions you are probably good to go.

A barbet can be kept well by beginners, but they should then visit the dog school together with their four-legged friend. Although it is not suitable for a small apartment simply because of its size, it can also become a city dog in appropriate living space. But you will have to go on lengthy walks through the dog park. In general, you should not leave this human-oriented and social four-legged friend alone for too long.

Where can I find a Barbet?

The Barbet has also enjoyed a slight increase in popularity outside of France in recent years, but all in all it is still rather rare. In the United States, for example, a few dozen puppies are reported every year. However, do not let yourself be tempted to buy a supposed barbet without papers – trust in the know-how of serious breeders who make a valuable contribution to the preservation of this sympathetic breed with their breeding.

Such dog connoisseurs are primarily concerned with helping typical, healthy and characterful puppies to get an optimal start in life. Get an idea of the parents’ animals in the breeder’s home and make sure that the puppies are lovingly raised. If the breeder also asks you some questions, this is a positive sign, after all, this shows that the future of his protégés is important to him. Although you sometimes have to accept waiting times or longer journeys to get a barbet with the best conditions, your future companion should be worth it!


Would you rather have an already full-grown four-legged friend move in? Then you need some luck to find a homeless barbet, after all, the breed is still relatively rare, especially outside France. It is best to contact specialized clubs – if there is no club for barbets in your country, clubs for water dogs may be able to help you – in some cases the Barbet is also run by clubs for French leading dogs. Maybe another water dog breed or a crossbreed with similar characteristics is an option anyway?

So be open when looking for an adult animal family dog and rather inform yourself as extensively as possible about the respective history of the animal in order to find out whether it suits you and your living conditions.

Ideal home for the Barber

Because the Barbet is a medium-sized breed, they may live happily in an apartment or a huge house as long as they get the daily exercise they require. And, as an energetic breed, they’ll enjoy joining you on all of your exciting trips; it’s time to break out the bag! Barbets were designed to be great swimmers, so if you live near a pond, lake, or other body of water, they’ll be in heaven.

Barbets adore their families and are likely to be by your side at all times. If you’ll be gone for a long period of time during the day, enroll them in a doggie daycare or hire a pet sitter to come over and play with them.

Kids, new friends at the front door and that dog across the street are all happy to make friends with these pups. If you’re hosting a dinner party for your friends, your Barbet will be delighted to play hostess and meet everyone who arrives.

They’ll get along with other dogs in the house, and when properly introduced to cats, they should be OK. However, because these dogs were bred to hunt birds, you may want to reconsider bringing a Barbet into your home if you have a pet parakeet.

Final words on the Barbet breed information 

The Barbet dog has a pleasant and sociable personality. They’ll strive to make friends with everyone they meet, including strangers on two and four legs. When you apply yourself to training and socializing your Barbet puppy, the breed is not known for being aggressive or biting. Barbets aren’t particularly vocal, so they’ll let you know when someone comes to the door, but they won’t bark at every leaf that falls onto the porch.

They make excellent playmates for children and get along well with other dogs because to their high energy level. They’re also likely to get along with cats if they’re raised together from the time they’re puppies. They were bred to be bird dogs, so they don’t get along with domestic birds.

These intelligent dogs strive to please their family, but when bored, they can get into mischief. Mental stimulation and regular exercise are vital for your Barbet to remain a well-behaved household member.

The Barbet dog was designed to be a stalwart hunter and a tireless swimmer, as seen by their webbed feet. They’ve even gained the nickname “Mud Dog” as a result of their proclivity for mucky, marshy water.

Their gregarious tendency applies to their workouts as well. Don’t leave your dog alone in the backyard—they won’t be able to keep up with this breed! Barbets participate in a wide range of activities, including running and swimming, as well as canine sports like as agility, rally, dock diving, and lure coursing.

Despite their high workout requirements, they’re happy to stay out with you once you’ve exhausted your Barbet. The most important thing to remember about a Barbet is that they simply want to be wherever you are and do whatever you’re doing.

Some other dog breeds you might find interesting as well: 

My name is Katy and I am 27. I love to travel and you would be surprised how good I am at karaoke. 🙂 Passionate dog lover and a "mother" to a beautiful toy puddle named Zara. I work as a volunteer in a local shelter and I am a veterinary assistant helping our four-legged friends every day.